17 November 2007
This past week someone from the flock I shepherd at 2nd Street Community Church asked me about why I teach God’s WORD the way I do on Sunday mornings. And so I thought that today would be a good time to share with you a little bit about why I do what I do the way that I do it.
The comment came from someone who in their past church experiences has been used to what is commonly called TOPICAL teaching of God’s WORD … which is where a topic such as LOVE, FAITH, RELATIONSHIPS, LOVING OUR ENEMIES is selected … and then a series of teachings are prepared on those topics using a variety of passages from God’s WORD … with various Bible passages used to support the teaching.
With TOPICAL teaching there’s often an introduction, one main point that is illustrated by 3-4 supporting points, and then a conclusion where the one main point is driven home, and where application is usually made to people’s day-to-day lives. That’s TOPICAL teaching.
I’m not against TOPICAL teaching. It’s just not what I’ve been called to do here at 2nd Street. Oh there will be a Sunday here and there throughout a year when I’ll share a TOPICAL teaching … such as the one I shared this past year on FORGIVENESS … and I’ll probably do another one on CONFESSION sometime during this coming year. But what I’ve been called to do is to teach God’s WORD one book at a time, verse-by-verse. And this is often called EXPOSITIONAL teaching.
The word EXPOSITION is from the Latin word exponere, which simply means to put out, to exhibit, or to explain. And in EXPOSITIONAL teaching of God’s WORD, the emphasis is not on coming up with one main point, but to teach through a passage and let each verse, each word, or each section of verses make the points along the way.
The publisher of your Bible – not the authors – added the section headings or titles you see in your Bible. They aren’t part of the original text. And they’ve publishers added section headings or titles to try and help the reader anticipate and understand the meaning of the section of God’s WORD they’re reading, focusing on, and digesting. And different Bibles divide up passages differently … beginning or ending on this verse or that verse.
The New International Version of the Bible, for example, is a translation based on ideas, not on the individual words of the verses. That’s why in the New International Version all the verses are in paragraphs with headings over each paragraph. And when a new idea, new theme, or new focus begins in the passage, a new heading appears.
But the New American Standard Bible isn’t a translation based on ideas … rather, it is a translation based on the individual words of the verses. That’s why in the New American Standard Bible each verse is it’s own stand-alone paragraph … and new ideas or themes are indicated, not by headings, but by the first verse of the new theme having a bold verse number next to it, and not a regularly stylized font number.
I use the New American Standard Bible as my main Bible to study and teach from … because it’s primary focus on the words allows the Holy Spirit to speak to me about the ideas and not the other way around. And then as I study a passage verse-by-verse, it comes alive, not because of what I’m anticipating it will say to me because of the section headings, but because of the words each author of the book I’m reading was led by the Holy Spirit to use in each verse.
Of course, I use other Bible translations and paraphrases when I study and teach … and my favorites are the New Living Translation, the New English Translation (www.net.bible.org), The Message, The Expanded Translation of the New Testament by Kenneth Wuest (primarily for Greek word studies), The Amplified Bible, and The New Century Version.
Most of the time the verses we go through have a main focus or theme. I’m not trying to avoid clarity by teaching God’s WORD the way I do. But what I love about EXPOSITIONAL teaching is that the application that goes on while I teach through a passage of God’s WORD verse-by-verse can be as deep and wide as the Nile … not because of my intellect and ability to teach, but because of God’s plan and God’s desire to instruct each of us through His WORD in the areas where we most need instruction, correction, encouragement, and equipping.
I don’t know what problems each of you are wrestling with. But God does. I don’t know where each of you is hurting. But God does. I don’t know what decisions you have to make today or this week that you need the counsel of God concerning. I just have the unique joy and responsibility of getting to team-teach with God whenever I stand before you and ask you take out your Bibles and open them up.
And I don’t have to make one main point with three supporting points, that all begin with words starting with the same letter. I just get to teach through however many verses seems right to me during the week as I’m studying, preparing and writing – and then God gets to do the application. Sure, I share some FAITH LESSONS along the way, but verse-by-verse God gets to connect His WORD with what’s going on in your life. And God gets to focus your heart and mind onto the one or two main things He wants to say to you on any given Sunday. And that my friends, is very cool.
And what I’m hoping and praying is that as this happens on Sundays, that your passion for being in God’s WORD THROUGHOUT THE WEEK will blossom. That’s why here at 2nd Street we’ll always have the portion of our bulletin that shares with you the READ THROUGH THE BIBLE IN A YEAR passages for that week. It may not connect directly with what I’m teaching through on Sundays. But you know what? It will always connect with what God wants and needs to teach you throughout the week.
Will I be able to teach through the whole Bible before I have to quit this job? Who knows. Who cares. My goal isn’t to teach the whole Bible before I die. My goal is to get into the Bible and invite it to get into us in ways that transform us and draw us more deeply into the character of Jesus Christ so that we can more consistently live into, and live out the will of God.
And so that’s why I teach the way I do. All people spiritually gifted as teachers aren’t pastors. But in EPHESIANS 4 Paul makes it clear that it’s God’s plan that ALL PASTORS ARE CALLED TO BE TEACHERS. And so this is why I teach the way I do … and will continue teaching this way … verse-by-verse through God’s WORD. Last year we went through FIRST PETER and HAGGAI. Right now we’re going through JOHN … and what’s next? I don’t know. But I will by the time we’re done with JOHN. I promise. I won’t have two or three Sundays where I just stand up here silently and look dorky. Well, I might look dorky, but I do promise to not be silent. Godspeed.